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TOP STORIES

Creating a bit of Marwar in the Holy City
The tenacity and the enterprise of Marwaris have been legendary. The term “Marwari” literally refers to a person hailing from Marwar — the erstwhile Jodhpur state.
A view of a Marwari temple in the vicinity of the Golden Temple
Illuminated Glory: A view of a Marwari temple in the vicinity of the Golden Temple. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma

Textile manufacturers’ group urges for capital subsidy to SSIs in border zone
The small-scale industrial units in the border area are awaiting the Capital Subsidy of 30 per cent of fixed capital investment as announced by the Punjab Government about three years back.



EARLIER EDITION

 

Chinese kites popular among youngsters
Youngsters in the city are busy flying kites these days. And its Chinese kites that are dotting the sky. Many bazaars have started keeping the Chinese version to attract both the children and the young. Designed in multiple colours and styles, the Chinese kites are available in the markets in the shapes of owls, hawks, butterflies and dragons and the prices range between Rs 30 and Rs 250.

A man prepares the strings (dor) used in kite flying in the city. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma
A man prepares the strings used in kite flying in the city

NGO for high-tech sports centre in city
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), an NGO, has urged the state government to set up the world-class sports centre here. Flaying the proposal of setting up of a sport centre at Mohali, the Manch leader said the majority of the sports persons were produced in the Majha belt, so the centre should fall under this area.

Memorial of a martyr in neglect
Thought the residents of the Holy City have still kept alive the memories of Shaheed Kanwal Ranbir Singh Gill, an IPS officer who sacrificed his life for the country during the heydays of terrorism on December 14, 1987, the memorial built in memory of the martyr is in a state of neglect. Thanks to the apathy of the authorities concerned.

Nine colours of garden tea
He reaches the Ram Bagh garden at the crack of the dawn on a scooter laden with his paraphernalia. He then cleans a portion of the cemented platform under an ancient Banyan tree and spreads a multi-coloured namda (Kashmiri rug) on which he places his thermoses, boxes, thermocol glasses, paper napkins and stirrers, besides salt and pepper containers and starts making tea.
Kawaljit Singh serves flavoured tea to morning walkers at Ram Bagh in the city. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma
Kawaljit Singh serves flavoured tea to morning walkers at Ram Bagh in the city

BSNL launches new scheme to woo customers
After losing nearly 23 thousand landline connections from April to December 2005, BSNL is now launching new schemes to attract customers and woo back old subscribers, Mr G. S. Daria, General Manager (Telecommunications) said here recently.

‘Medical tourism reviving hotels’ 
Medical tourism, being promoted by the state government, has infused a new lease of life into the hotel and restaurant industry in Punjab, Mr Paramjit Singh, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Punjab, said here recently. He was in the city for a meeting with members of the Amritsar Hotels and Restaurant Association.

Encroachment on sidewalks leaves no room for pedestrians
Encroached footpaths, broken sidewalks, heavy rush of traffic, faded crosswalks, absence of zebra crossings and many more pedestrian hazards dog the city. It also conveys the apathetic attitude of the authorities towards the woes of the pedestrian.

PHDCCI welcomes Pak’s move to import steel from India
The Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the move of Pakistan to lift a ban on the import of mild steel from India.

Encroachments dot residential area
Some of the residents of the Aman Avenue here opposite Hakima Wala Gate are blatantly encroaching upon government land, while the authorities are passing the buck on the issue. And the absence of any action has now encouraged more encroachers. A number of residents have turned the land into a parking lot by constructing a concrete path.


Encroachments are common in Aman Avenue in the city. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma 
Encroachments are common in Aman Avenue in the city

Trading community seeks withdrawal of Form C 
The trading community has demanded the withdrawal of quarterly filing of Form C instead of yearly, as it is neither practicable nor feasible on the part of the trading community.

American Sikhs donate funds for J&K quake relief
Sikhs based in the US have donated to the Prime Minister Relief fund for the victims of the earthquake, which devastated both the Indian and the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

A gift from the Valley: Kashmiri traders come to the city during the winters to sell dry fruit
A gift from the Valley: Kashmiri traders come to the city during the winters to sell dry fruit. — Photo by Rajiv Sharma 

‘Trade with Pakistan must open up further’
The year 2005 turned out to be epoch-making for Indo-Pak trade with duty-free import of five items, including tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic and livestock through the Wagah joint check-post.

Banned drugs freely available in city
Despite the district administration’s ban on the sale of 106 banned drugs and substances, and the issuing of notices regarding their sale conditions and prohibition, these are freely available in many pockets of the district.

Weekly Round-up Condolence
The teachers and staff of DAV College condoled the passing away of Ms Chandra Wati, the mother of Mr Dhani Ram, the Principal of the college, who expired recently after a protracted illness.

Colours of the Republic
With the Republic Day a few days away, lensman Rajiv Sharma captures different shades of the Republic

Children, who should have been in school, sell the Tricolour on the roads of Amritsar Coolies race among themselves to pick up a goods consignment as it arrives from Pakistan at the Wagah check post in Amritsar
Children, who should have been in school, sell the Tricolour on the roads of Amritsar. Coolies race among themselves to pick up a goods consignment as it arrives from Pakistan at the Wagah check post in Amritsar. 

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Creating a bit of Marwar in the Holy City
Maharaja Ranjit Singh had invited Marwaris to Amritsar. And they stayed back, making the city their home. The Marwaris, with their keen business sense and enterprising spirit, have transformed the Holy City into a business hub, reports Varinder Walia

An undated photo of Marwaris from the city posing together for a keepsake
Past Forward: An undated photo of Marwaris from the city posing together for a keepsake. 

The tenacity and the enterprise of Marwaris have been legendary. The term “Marwari” literally refers to a person hailing from Marwar — the erstwhile Jodhpur state. Distinct in their dress, customs and language, the traders and merchants from Fatehpur, Churoo, Rattangarh, Ramgarh, Seekar, Lachhmangarh and its adjoining areas came to be known as the Marwaris.

It’s often said “Marwari baat aur bhaat ke liye jaan bhi dega” (A Marwari will give his life to honour his word and dowry). This is the principle on which most Marwaris do business and succeed.

This is perhaps the only community where divorce rate is nearly zero. Most of the marriages are solemnised within the community. All in all, this is one community that works hard and loves to live life kingsize. Interestingly, the Marwaris have a separate cremation ground which is tastefully decorated.

Mr Ganesh Poddar, a renowned Marwari, claims that they were specially invited by Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself during his visit to Marwar to settle in Amritsar to promote business in the Holy City. The book titled, “Maharo Apno Parivar” (Our Own Family), published by the local Shree Marwari Samaj, claimed that Maharaja Ranjit Singh knew the worth and capability of the Marwaris and hence he wanted to develop Amritsar on the pattern of Lahore (the capital of his kingdom), which was economically much developed than the Holy City.

Mr Manmohan Singhania, a senior member of the community, said that initially as many as 32 prominent Marwari businessmen responded to the invitation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and settled in Amritsar about two centuries ago. They first settled in Sultanwind village on the outskirts of Amritsar where they set up their temple. The “Batti Hatta” (a cluster of 32 shops) in the walled city is a testimony to this fact. They were given “nazrana” (royalty) by the Maharaja for opening shops and setting up their establishments. The Maharaja allotted a huge chunk of fertile land to the Marwaris in Ahluwalia Katra and other parts of the city. With the passage of time, the number of the Marwari families increased to more than 2000. The Marwaris hold Sikhism in high esteem and frequently visit Harmandar Sahib to pay their obeisance, though they have raised many temples and dharamshalas in the city.

The family of Mr Jatinder Podar has in its possession a rare portrait of Maharaja Ranjit Singh presenting a precious necklace (moti mala) to his contemporary Seth Mirza Mal Poddar. Another old family (that of Seth Hanuman Parsad and his son Arvind Kumar) claims that it has preserved about 250-year-old “vahis” (account books) pertaining to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s period.

The old settlers include Nevtias, Poddars, Singhanias and Goenkas. The Goenka lane and a cluster of houses belonging to the Marwaris in different areas of Amritsar show how much the Marwaris are part of Amritsar’s vibrant culture. Though well versed in Punjabi, they love to converse with one another in their mother tongue Marwari.

Prominent Marwaris of the city include Lala Atma Ram Aggarwal (Podar), a senior advocate, Mr Om Narain Vaid, an IAS officer and product of the local Marwari School, Mr Bhagrath Dass, a renowned advocate of Punjab and Haryana High Court and Supreme Court, Prof B.D. Gupta (Dhanuka), Mr Hari Om Dhanuka, Dr Radhey Shyam, Dr Harbilas Rai, Prof Manman Chand, Seth Sant Lal Podar, a director of the Bank of India, Mr Jass Raj Goenka, a retired Income Tax Commissioner, Mr Santosh Gupta, state president of the Vishav Hindu Parishad, Dr Om Parkash Singhania and Mr Shiv Gupta, a charted accountant.

The respect that the Marwaris of Amritsar command all over the country can be judged from the fact that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, had visited the house of Seth Radha Krishan Goenka, a great freedom fighter and district Congress committee chief, in the narrow lanes of the city after Goenka’s demise.

Some of the Marwaris still possess the souvenirs gifted to their forefathers by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. These prize gifts include “naulakha haar” (a precious necklace worth crores of rupees) which is not traceable now. Some Marwaris have in their possession the Persian deeds and documents and wills.

The Marwaris were so much committed to their traditions that the vegetable vendors selling onions did not dare enter “Aulian Wala Mandir” near the old Improvement Trust Office, earlier an exclusive locality of the Marwaris.

The Marwari community is the richest community in Amritsar. Their work ethics, their diligence and their hard work have made them successful in their ventures.

No matter how modern, well-travelled and rich the Marwaris may be, the Marwari marriages are still very much traditional. The Marwari community can be broadly categorised into the Marwari Agarwals and the Marwari Oswal Jains.

What is it that makes the Marwaris good business persons? One reason could be that they are trained early in life about the basics of trading. “Even if we don’t go to any business school or university, we are most likely to excel in business,” says a young Marwari. “Certain business ethics and values are given to us on a daily basis right from childhood, and it all becomes a part of our lives,” he notes.

“Our way of thinking, our business ethics and above all, financial support to do business gives us an upper hand as a business community,” says a Marwari.

Since the Marwaris traditionally come from a business background, they are well versed in its intricacies. That can make a difference. “We transact business worth crores merely through the word of mouth. People trust the community, as payments are made on time. Our forefathers gained this goodwill and the new generation carries on the legacy,” adds Mr Jagdish Parsad Ladia, an elderly Marwari.

Customers have faith in them, as they feel that a Marwari businessman will not be dishonest. Almost the entire Marwari community rates itself high on the trait of honesty. The Marwari businessmen are committed to their customers and seek long-term relation with them.

The Marwaris believe in long-term relationships and are very customer-centric in their dealings. “We are a non-violent lot, but are also very emotional. We are also very cautious by nature and avoid getting into business that involves cheating,” observes a Marwari.

The Marwaris have opened many charitable centres in the city. These include Shree Marwari School, Shree Raghunath Dispensary, Shree Marwari Janana Hospital (two branches), Marwari Pustakalya (library), Marwari Sewak Sabha, Marwari Atithi Bhawan (guest house). The Amritsar-born Marwaris have established serais in far-flung areas of the country, say Mr Bhisham Saraia and his son Sunil Saraia.

There’s a perception that the Marwaris are very stingy. But the people from the community deny this. In fact, the Marwaris like to flaunt their money. Weddings are ostentatious occasions during which people flaunt their financial prowess.

The first and foremost step in the Mawari wedding is the horoscope matching by astrologers. A Marwari wedding ceremonies are recognised for their richness and elaborateness. After the matchmaking, the pre-matrimonial ceremony of “sagaai” takes place at the groom’s house. “Koul barana” (filling of silver bowl) or “mudha-tikka” is the actual Marwari engagement ceremony.

The Bengali connection

On festive occasions, the Marwari women can be seen in their traditional ‘chunri’ dress
In Tune with Tradition: On festive occasions, the Marwari women can be seen in their traditional ‘chunri’ dress. 

The earliest link of the Marwaris with Bengal can be traced back to 1564, when Rajput soldiers under Akbar’s flag came to camp there during the reign of Suleman Kirani.

The contract of supplying the essentials for the soldiers was awarded to merchants of Marwar. On their arrival in Bengal, they are supposed to have introduced themselves as Marwaris, and since they wore “pugris” (turbans), they were also referred to as “pugridhari Marwaris” (Marwaris who wore turbans) and “kali topiwalas”. 

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Textile manufacturers’ group urges for capital subsidy to SSIs in border zone
Pawan Kumar

The small-scale industrial units in the border area are awaiting the Capital Subsidy of 30 per cent of fixed capital investment as announced by the Punjab Government about three years back.

Under this policy, the government also announced to make annual budgetary allocation of Rs 25 crore to be distributed as capital subsidy on quarterly basis.

However, the Textile Manufacturers’ Association has alleged that the state government had failed to allocate this budget to boost the “already sick” industry. The association also accused the government of adopting the “indifferent attitude and anti-industrial policies”.

The association led by Mr H S Makhni, general secretary, has written to all the MLAs of the ruling party to urge the government to allocate the budget as had been announced earlier.

Mr Makhni, in the letter, said during terrorism the small-scale industry had got a severe set-back resulting in the closure of many units in this border town. However, encouraged by the government’s announcement, a number of entrepreneurs, who had suffered losses previously, started new units. To meet their share of financial investment they mortgaged their assets also.

However, the government had failed to honour its commitment and had not distributed their capital subsidy although the industrial units complied with all the requirements and their applications had been approved, he said, adding that this had created very serious financial problem for these units.

He urged the MLAs to persuade the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and Finance Minister to honour their commitment for annual budgetary allocation of Rs 25 crore and for actual disbursement on priority basis without any further delay.

He said as per the media reports the government’s revenue had increased substantially as the imposition of VAT had enabled the government to collect large revenue. “Now it is unfair and unjust to delay payment of their lawful claim of capital subsidy,” he added. 

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Chinese kites popular among youngsters
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Youngsters in the city are busy flying kites these days. And its Chinese kites that are dotting the sky. Many bazaars have started keeping the Chinese version to attract both the children and the young. Designed in multiple colours and styles, the Chinese kites are available in the markets in the shapes of owls, hawks, butterflies and dragons and the prices range between Rs 30 and Rs 250.

Although the volume of business of these kites was less as the kites were little costlier than local kites, the local people have been showing interest in purchasing these.

The other shortcoming was that these kites could not be used for entangling (pecha) due to their design and shape, Bittu Pardhan, an expert in kite flying, said.

He added that the indigenous kites were cheaper as compared to the Chinese ones and more useful in the process of “pecha.”

“A kite should be heavy and able to bear the fast winds during entangling. The Chinese kites lack this. The Chinese Kites are more of a showpiece.”

The Holy City has emerged as one of the main places in the production of the kites and the thread (dor).

The manufacturers start making the kites and the threads as winter begins. The process ends after Basant Panchami.

Meanwhile, the festival of Lohri was celebrated with fervour as the people flew kites from the morning till the evening.

Lohri marks the culmination of winter and is celebrated on the 13th of January in the month of Paush or Magh, a day before Makar Sankranti.

For Punjabis, this is more than just a festival. It is also a way of life. Lohri celebrates fertility and the spark of life.

During the evening, people gather round the bonfires, throw sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames, sing popular songs and exchange greetings. 

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NGO for high-tech sports centre in city
Neeraj Bagga

The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), an NGO, has urged the state government to set up the world-class sports centre here. Flaying the proposal of setting up of a sport centre at Mohali, the Manch leader said the majority of the sports persons were produced in the Majha belt, so the centre should fall under this area.

Dr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, president AVM, in a letter to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said the Holy City deserved the world class sports centre because of the great achievements made by the residents of the belt in the sports field. Local Guru Nanak Dev University, known as the sports arm of Punjab, has won the coveted Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy, the highest award for a university in sports in the country for a record 19 years.

The University Grants Commission has identified the university as a centre of potential in sports sciences out of 112 universities in the country.

He alleged that the decision of setting up sports centre at Mohali was taken only because the venue suited politicians and bureaucrats.

“The state government should not give preferential treatment to Mohali and Patiala due to their proximity to Chandigarh while opening up mega projects. Instead areas falling away from the capital must be preferred to give the residents a sense of belongingness,” he added.

Moreover, he said the university had produced 18 Arjuna Awardees, which was also a rare achievement in sports.

Majority of these players come from villages in the border belt. A tiny village Sabrah in Tarn Taran sub-division of this city has the distinction of producing three Olympians.

Amritsar being the major city in the border area and having a glorious spiritual history must be selected for the project.

The Manch wrote separate letters to the Chief Secretary and Secretary, Sports, Punjab, regarding the issue.

Dr Gumtala said the sports centre would eventually prove beneficial to the country by tapping the young talent available in the border belt. 

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Memorial of a martyr in neglect
Pawan Kumar

Shaheed Kanwal Ranbir Singh
Shaheed Kanwal Ranbir Singh

Thought the residents of the Holy City have still kept alive the memories of Shaheed Kanwal Ranbir Singh Gill, an IPS officer who sacrificed his life for the country during the heydays of terrorism on December 14, 1987, the memorial built in memory of the martyr is in a state of neglect. Thanks to the apathy of the authorities concerned.

Mahant Iqbal Singh Gill, father of Shaheed Kanwal Ranbir Singh, rued that the authorities had failed to maintain the memorial situated near Ghee Mandi Chowk.

The authorities had also named the road leading from Chowk Ghee Mandi to the main G T road in his memory as K R S Gill road.

However, this road is also in a pitiable condition. A number of times estimates were made for the repair, but nothing concrete was done to repair it.

Remembering his brave son, Mahant Iqbal said he was very honest to the core and to his duty. His batch-mate officers still look after the family. Born on August 19, 1955, Kanwal Ranbir completed his primary education from Government School, Varpal and DAV College here. He completed his doctorate in veterinary and passed the IPS examination in his first attempt.

He was posted as the Assistant Superintendent of Police at Nabha in the beginning and then he was promoted to the SP rank in Patiala and he was later promoted as the SSP Sangrur.

However, he could not join his duty due to his untimely death when some terrorists shot him when he, along with his senior officer Arvinder Singh Brar, SSP Patiala, was taking a morning walk.

Mahant Iqbal Singh urged the authorities concerned to pay attention to the maintenance of the memorial and the repairing of the road named after the martyr. He said it would be a true homage to the departed soul and a proper way to keep alive the memories of the great son of the soil.

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Nine colours of garden tea
Rashmi Talwar

He reaches the Ram Bagh garden at the crack of the dawn on a scooter laden with his paraphernalia. He then cleans a portion of the cemented platform under an ancient Banyan tree and spreads a multi-coloured namda (Kashmiri rug) on which he places his thermoses, boxes, thermocol glasses, paper napkins and stirrers, besides salt and pepper containers and starts making tea.

Mr Kawaljit Singh, a lensman by profession, has now made the daily walkers in the garden look forward to one more thing besides the fresh air—a fresh cup of tea in nine different flavours.

One can choose from masala tea, lemon tea, jasmine flavour, green tea, Kahva (Kashmiri tea) and orange tea, and the rare, nowhere to be found in the Holy City, pink salty tea of Kashmir.

And as Mr Kanwaljit Singh’s wife, Ms Inderjit Kaur, belongs to Mera Kadal in Kashmir, it makes all the difference.

He says his day starts at 3 a.m. when he, with his wife, prepare the different flavours, and reaches the gardens at 5 O’clock sharp.

“In merely two hours, the tea is sold.”

“Similarly in the evening, I bring about five varieties of vegetarian soups, including, tomato soup, mushroom soup and black gram soup garnished with almonds. These, too, are sold out in less than two hours,” he adds.

No wonder then that Mr Balwinder Singh, a government contractor, Mr Ashwani Nanda, an agriculturist, and Mr Rajan Rana, a writer, say, “We miss him so much the day he is absent.”

And for his efforts, Mr Kawaljit Singh earns a neat Rs 400 every day. 

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BSNL launches new scheme to woo customers
Pawan Kumar

After losing nearly 23 thousand landline connections from April to December 2005, BSNL is now launching new schemes to attract customers and woo back old subscribers, Mr G. S. Daria, General Manager (Telecommunications) said here recently.

“The main cause of the disconnections was mobile phones. Also, in many cases, the customers have shifted to other places.”

He said the BSNL had launched new tariff plans for landline customers with effect from January.

“The rentals for the general plan for the urban subscribers have been reduced from Rs 250 per month to Rs 180 per month with 50 free calls per month, while for the rural subscribers of Amritsar Tehsil, the rentals have been reduced from Rs 210 to Rs 150 per month with 75 free calls per month.”

In addition to this, BSNL has also launched new schemes under Sulabh (Rs 99), BSNL Economy (Rs 300 with 200 free calls), BSNL Special (Rs 375 with 400/450/500 free calls), BSNL Special Plus (Rs 975 with 1100 free calls), BSNL Super (Rs 1450 with 1800 free calls) and BSNL Premium (Rs 2450 with 3500 free calls), he added.

“The BSNL now also offers a free broadband trial for two months. The bookings for the scheme has been extended up to January 31. Under this, the dial-up users can obtain a free broadband connection.”

Mr Daria said the company had also launched “Anant”—a prepaid care for Excel mobile services users. “We have also introduced a new prepaid coupon of Rs 5,000 with a validity of two years and Rs 5,000 as net call value.”

The General Manager said a scheme for the restoration of the disconnected landline telephones has also been started where phones that were disconnected due to non-payment would be restored without asking the customer to pay the rent for the intervening period. 

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‘Medical tourism reviving hotels’ 
Pawan Kumar

Medical tourism, being promoted by the state government, has infused a new lease of life into the hotel and restaurant industry in Punjab, Mr Paramjit Singh, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Punjab, said here recently. He was in the city for a meeting with members of the Amritsar Hotels and Restaurant Association.

Mr Paramjit Singh said the hospitality sector was geared up to cater to the changing market trends towards growing medical tourism. “Various hotel associations have joined hands to meet the requirement of international tourists coming to Punjab for treatment.”

He said there was a huge potential for this segment of tourism and would boost the state’s sagging hotel industry.

“Nine major towns having super-specialty hospitals had been identified at the initial stage where hospital and hotels would together offer a package to the people coming here for treatment.

“More than 40 hotels have already come forward in this regard.”

Mr A. P. S. Chatha, General Secretary of the Amritsar Hotels and Restaurant Association said hoteliers had renovated their hotels to bring it to international standards. “But the government has not improved the infrastructure to meet the requirements. Even though it was imposing taxes, sanitation is not being provided up to the required standard. Electricity charges are exorbitant too and the hotel industry has been given no concessions so far.”

The members of the association also urged the government to reduce VAT from 12.5 per cent to 4 per cent, as had been done by the Himachal Pradesh government.

They added that the tariff on power should be charged as industrial tariff instead of commercial. 

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Encroachment on sidewalks leaves no room for pedestrians
Neeraj Bagga

Encroached footpaths, broken sidewalks, heavy rush of traffic, faded crosswalks, absence of zebra crossings and many more pedestrian hazards dog the city. It also conveys the apathetic attitude of the authorities towards the woes of the pedestrian.

Footpaths are the most neglected part of the city. At several roads, they are not considered worth laying and wherever they exist, they are either encroached upon or are in a dilapidated condition.

Mr Naresh Johar, an employee here, says that he has to walk about ten km everyday to his work.

He said that the Hall Gate Road leading to the Golden Temple has a footpaths on either side. “But the shopkeepers have encroached upon it.”

The situation is even more distressing on Bhai Vir Singh Marg, commonly known as Lawrence Road. Walkway exists only on one side of the road and that, too, is encroached upon by shopkeepers.

Some shopkeepers have constructed a concrete patch and inlaid tiles to make their shops attractive.

They put their wares outside the shops and take them inside as soon as they find that the authorities are visiting the place.

Mr Naresh Johar said that due to a manifold increase in the vehicular traffic, several roads like Hall Gate Road, Queen’s Road, Cooper Road and others, had turned into one-ways, but no provision for the pedestrians had been made.

Mr Brij Bedi, a social activist here, says walkway in the busy Hukam Singh Road, which connects Batala Road and Majitha Road with the GT road, has been taken over by shopkeepers. Same is the case with Railway Link Road and many others of the city, he adds. 

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PHDCCI welcomes Pak’s move to import steel from India
Ashok Sethi

The Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) has welcomed the move of Pakistan to lift a ban on the import of mild steel from India. Mr R S Sachdeva, Co-Chairman and Chief Coordinator of the Indo-Pak exhibition held here recently, said it was a positive move as India would be able to meet Pakistan’s requirements in the reconstruction of houses and buildings ravaged by earthquake in October this year.

He added that this would help Indian companies in marketing steel products, including spare parts made out of mild steel.

“The sales records have enthused Pakistani exhibitors who have promised to bring a wider range of consumer products and gift items in the next fair,” he said.

Encouraged by the response of over 1.5 lakh visitors, he said that onyx retailers from Pakistan, who showcased massive range of marble jade items, and made a record sale of around 60 lakh, said they too, would return.

The textile retailers also did a roaring business, selling a variety of textures and designer suits for women, he added.

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Encroachments dot residential area 
Neeraj Bagga

Some of the residents of the Aman Avenue here opposite Hakima Wala Gate are blatantly encroaching upon government land, while the authorities are passing the buck on the issue. And the absence of any action has now encouraged more encroachers.

A number of residents have turned the land into a parking lot by constructing a concrete path. They have erected concrete and iron railing around the area leaving little chance for a visitor to distinguish between an encroached and an owned land.

PUDA had established Aman Avenue in 1980, carving it out of the most neglected area of the city. It boasts of five parks, which are maintained by its residents.

A resident of the area, on the condition of anonymity, said that the process of encroaching upon the land began about six years ago. The residents, taking a cue from one other, started grabbing as much land as they could lay their hand on. “It got an impetus from the indifferent attitude of the authorities. Though some of us approached the authorities but no one bothered.”

When contacted, the District Town Planner said the colony was established by PUDA and it was their job to check the encroachments.

Meanwhile, Mr Sawinder Pal, the PUDA SDO here, said their job was over with the establishment of the colony and now it was the duty of the Municipal Corporation to punish the offenders who were flouting the norms.

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Trading community seeks withdrawal of Form C 
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News service

The trading community has demanded the withdrawal of quarterly filing of Form C instead of yearly, as it is neither practicable nor feasible on the part of the trading community.

Mr Amrit Lal Jain, president of Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal (PPBM), while talking to The Tribune, said it was a well known fact that assessment of sales tax cases were pending for years together due to the non-receipt of C forms from the purchaser of the goods.

He said the new amendment had shocked the trading community. He said states were always short of printed C forms and the traders had to visit many times for getting five to ten C forms.

Mr Jain said he had written to Mr P Chidambram, the Union Finance Minister, suggesting that the government should not allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector as it would jeopardise the livelihood of nearly 5 crore persons employed in the domestic retail business.

He said the unorganised sector would obviously lose its base and edge in the retail market resulting in the reduced employment opportunity by displacing small retailers as it did in Thailand.

The PPBM president further requested the Finance Minister to restrain the Income Tax Department from harassing the declarents by reopening their cases under Section-148 and also making full additions of the amounts for which the declared jewellery was sold.

He said the declarents under the voluntary disclosure Scheme-1997 had paid 30 per cent of the declared income as tax and also the long-term capital gain on subsequent sale of jewellery.

Mr Jain said although they were paying the fringe benefit tax imposed on the expenditure, it should either be withdrawn or at least the partnership firms should not be burdened with this tax as it was very complicated and not easy to comply with.

He said the service tax on goods freight should be abolished as it was causing unnecessary harassment to small and tiny units.

This tax should be kept with the service providers (transport companies) as they could easily collect service tax while delivering goods to the traders and deposit with the government.

He said after VAT had been implemented in the country, the Central Sales Tax should be reduced to 2 per cent from the 4 per cent during the next financial year as promised by the UPA government.

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American Sikhs donate funds for J&K quake relief
Ashok Sethi

Sikhs based in the US have donated to the Prime Minister Relief fund for the victims of the earthquake, which devastated both the Indian and the Pakistani side of Kashmir.

Various American Sikh Organisations including Miri Piri Academy, Amritsar, SikhNet and 3HO Foundation— all founded by Bhai Harbhajan Singh Yogi, have made a fervent appeal to all members to help in the earthquake relief efforts.

The board members of the Sikh Dharama International, Ms Preraim Kaur Khalsa, along with Mr Kartar Singh, Senior CEO, Ms Sadanand Kaur, Principal, Miri Piri Academy, and Mr Gurujagat Singh Khalsa forwarded cheque to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

She said that SikhNet and Miri Piri commended the work being done by the government to help the victims of the natural disaster.

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 ‘Trade with Pakistan must open up further’
Ashok Sethi

The year 2005 turned out to be epoch-making for Indo-Pak trade with duty-free import of five items, including tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic and livestock through the Wagah joint check-post.

Mr Rajdeep Uppal, a leading exporter from India, said the scrapping of duty on perishable items was a good opening and a morale booster for the Indian businessmen. He added that although the quantum of business was low, it had opened up a new vista for building strong trade ties.

Ruing the lack of infrastructure at the Wagah check-post, he said people had received enquiries for the export of livestock. “But with no veterinary facilities available here, it is proving to be a hurdle to the expansion of trade,” he added.

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Banned drugs freely available in city
Rashmi Talwar

Despite the district administration’s ban on the sale of 106 banned drugs and substances, and the issuing of notices regarding their sale conditions and prohibition, these are freely available in many pockets of the district.

Regardless of the copies of the order forwarded to the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, Commissioner (Jalandhar Division), DIGs (Border Range) and CID, besides General Officer Commanding (GOC), Infantry Divuision, Municipal Commissioner, all District Magistrates of the state, all three SSPs, besides SDMs, DPRO, Civil Surgeon and even Registrar, Guru Nanak Dev University, the directions for sale were reportedly being flouted.

Some of these banned drugs include Compose, Valium, Pentotil, Lomotil, Proxyvon, Corex Syrup, Parvondex and Phensydyl, Mr Gurbinder Singh, (DDO) of the Health Department, said.

The district administration has taken a serious note of the fact that drug addicts and youths were using these substances.

In the light of this, they have concluded that the usage of these banned substances and drugs is linked to crime in the city.

Reports of petty crimes like mobile snatchings, chain and purse snatching, vehicle lifting are on the rise and the police said it was the handiwork of drug addicts who were compelled to take to crime to buy their daily doses of drugs.

The District Magistrate under Section 144 of the CrPC (DM) banned the sale of these drugs without prescription and further prohibited the carriage/ storage of these without a requisite license.

Interestingly, the ban orders were to be in place only for three months from the date of the issue.

The order directed the District Public Relations Department (DPRD) to make the ban orders public through publicity vans and also affixing its copies on notice boards in offices of top officials.

However, hardly any notice was taken of the directive.

“Often these orders were considered routine; refreshed every quarterly without any implementation,” said a top administrative official.

Most of these medicines were sold by unscrupulous chemists even in posh areas. The situation is worst in the border villages where these drugs are in high demand.

The increasing number of drug-addicts, including women, and the free availability of these was a disturbing trend, the official added.

Even the chemists in the city were hardly seen asking for prescriptions. In many cases, the chemists themselves prescribed and sold tablets and syrups to patients, the district health authorities said.  

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Weekly Round-up Condolence

The teachers and staff of DAV College condoled the passing away of Ms Chandra Wati, the mother of Mr Dhani Ram, the Principal of the college, who expired recently after a protracted illness.

Senior citizens

Ms Lakshmi Kanta Chawla, Vice-President, state BJP, in a letter written to the Union Railway Minister and Railway General Manager complained that the berth facility given to senior citizens at 30 per cent discount was not being implemented properly.

She added that senior citizens of 60 years or more were being given the upper berth in trains due to which they had to face problems. She urged the government to implement the facility and if possible allot lower berth to them.

Mourning

The Punjab Health Department Subordinate Offices Clerical Association has mourned the demise of Mr Charan Singh, Junior Assistant of the Mental Hospital. The association led by Mr Sushil Kumar, president, and Mr Jagdish Thakur, general secretary, resolved to provide every possible help to the family of the deceased soul. The association also provided financial help to the family.

Transfer

Various organisations, including the Government Teachers’ Union, Punjab Subordinate Services Federation, PWD Field and Workshop Union and Paramedical Coordination Committee along with different political parties, have urged the Deputy Chief Minister and the Minister for Health and Medical Education to transfer back Dr N S Neki of Amritsar Medical College.

Dr Neki has been promoted from the post of Associate Professor to Professor by the Punjab Public Service Commission recently.

Recommendation

The Sai Mian Mir International Foundation, led by its President, Mr Harbhajan Singh Brar, has urged the President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, to honour Ms Roopan Deol Bajaj with a national award. In a letter to Dr Kalam, he said Ms Bajaj had served the society as a good administrator.

Strike

On the call of the All India Bank of Baroda Co-ordination Committee, the employees of its Amritsar branch observed a day-long strike here recently. The employees assembled at Town Hall and held a rally raising slogans against “anti-public sector policies” of the management of bank. The employees, under the banner of AIBEA, opposed the move of the management to privatise the bank and threatened to go on an indefinite strike in case their demands were not met.

(Compiled by Pawan Kumar)

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